Review of “Long Shot”

Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) has plans to run for President in 2024; however, when former TV actor, President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), tells Charlotte he plans on leaving office after his first term to act in movies, she moves her ambitions up to 2020. Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) is an investigative journalist whose small liberal Brooklyn-based newspaper has been purchased by conservative billionaire media mogul Parker Wembley (Andy Serkis) and Fred quits his job in protest. Fred’s best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson) takes him on a night on the town to cheer him up. The wind up at a fund raiser for the World Wildlife Fund where Charlotte is also in attendance. Charlotte and Fred knew each other growing up as they lived next door to each other. Fred had a crush on young Charlotte and even kissed her, leading to an embarrassing reaction. Charlotte and Fred talk briefly where they reconnect over their shared past. Wembley is there and Fred confronts him then falls down a flight of stairs. Charlotte wants to add Fred to her staff as a speech writer, much to the chagrin of her assistant Maggie Millikin (June Diane Raphael) who thinks Fred is too big a risk to her fledgling campaign. As they travel and work together, Fred and Charlotte develop an affection for one another that goes beyond friendship and could derail her presidential ambitions.

“Long Shot” asks a great deal of its audience, namely believing Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen are convincing as a romantic couple. While the film takes a few shortcuts to get the pair to fall in love, screenwriters Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah do a good job of building a world where these two could be a couple. They also include some very funny situations and good jokes to smooth the way.

Charlize Theron is amazing in the movie. She comes across as a legitimate and polished government official and she can be very funny. Theron has proven in “Young Adult,” “Tully” and “Gringo” she has the comedy chops to steal any film from her costars and she does that in “Long Shot.” While Rogen has his moments, Theron is given the best lines and delivers them with gusto. A sex scene where she makes requests that shock Rogen’s Fred is a brilliant bit of role reversal that Theron delivers with the proper amount of lust and intensity, so you believe that’s what she wants, and she means to get it.

Theron also has the gravitas to make the scenes of Charlotte carrying out her duties ring true. Her walking through the halls of the White House, going over the schedule with her aides or dealing with a crisis in another part of the world, reminded me of Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing,” except when she’s tripping on Molly and having to deal with a third world dictator. That’s more like a Rogen comedy than a Sorkin drama. That scene still works because of Theron and her ability to convincingly play a person on drugs holding it together to get past the emergency while trying to convince everyone else she isn’t high. It’s a scene that could have derailed the whole film, but Theron makes us believe Charlotte is capable and experienced enough to pull it off.

Rogen is mostly playing his usual man-child, but the script plays to that strength and makes the character increasingly self-aware. There are actual moments of growth and maturity for Rogen’s Fred as the story progresses. It’s not the kind of performance that will win any awards, but this is one of Seth Rogen’s better performances.

If the movie has an issue, it’s the high-mindedness of Charlotte. Perhaps I’m too cynical when it comes to politicians, but I simply couldn’t believe a decision Charlotte makes near the end of the film. I won’t give it away, but Charlotte chooses a path that is political suicide and does so for love. Actually, that mostly gives it away, but it’s a rom-com, so you know something along that line has to happen. Anyway, Charlotte’s decision is the kind of thing that wouldn’t happen in real life. It especially wouldn’t have the positive outcome as it does in the film. It’s the kind of thing we would hope our leaders would do, but they don’t.

“Long Shot” is rated R for strong sexual content, some drug use and language throughout. Along with the aforementioned sex scene, we see the outcome of a moment of self-pleasure along with discussions of a sexual nature. Fred and Charlotte take Molly, and at a security check point, Fred empties his pockets showing us he’s carrying several drugs. Foul language is common throughout the film.

Seth Rogen is frequently in films where his character is paired with a woman that is, based on looks alone, out of his league. “Knocked Up,” “Neighbors” and its sequel, “The Green Hornet,” and “Like Father” (a Netflix film), all pair Rogen with very attractive women as his love interest. I suppose this is part of the underdog theme that runs through most of his films, showing even the messy schlub can find happiness with a put-together and attractive woman. It’s just another part of the film that stretches credibility to near breaking point, but the script makes this “Beauty and the Beast” scenario work. It’s a minor miracle.

“Long Shot” gets five stars.

It’s a full slate of films opening this week, hoping you’ve seen “Avengers: Endgame” as many times as you can stand and looking for something different to watch. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

The Hustle—

Pokemon Detective Pikachu—

Poms—

Tolkien—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Den of Thieves”

Los Angeles is the capital of bank robberies. On this day, it isn’t a bank but an armored car that is the target. A team of robbers led by Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) hits the truck with a precise strike meant to get the group in and out in a short period of time. Unfortunately one of the security guards goes for his gun leading to a shootout that kills all the guards, several cops and one of the robbers; however, the crew gets away with the truck that had no money on board. Investigating the crime is LA Sheriff’s department detective Nick Flanagan (Gerard Butler) and his team from the major crimes squad. His work leads to Donnie (O’Shea Jackson, Jr) as possibly having a connection to the robbers so Nick knocks him out and brings him to a house filled with his squad and some very attractive and scantily-clad women. Sending the women out, Nick questions Donnie, letting him know if they don’t like the answers he will be killed and dumped in the middle of nowhere. Donnie says Merrimen doesn’t tell him much and only uses him as a getaway driver. Nick tells Donnie to keep in touch and tell him what Merrimen is planning next. The cop and the bank robber begin a cat-and-mouse game with millions of dollars at stake and possibly their lives.

“Den of Thieves” is a gritty crime thriller that takes itself very seriously. It is packed with a cast of Alpha Males that strut, grunt and menace their way through a 140 minute movie, jumping from gunfights, robberies and domestic drama with little to no thought about how it will affect the flow of the story. It also has a complicated heist that acts as an anchor to keep everyone involved in roughly the same place even though the cops know the robbers are up to something and robbers know the cops know they’re up to something and it all becomes an intricate ballet that runs on booze and cigarettes. It is also maddeningly stupid.

I love a good crime drama. They work best when they are kept down to earth and focus on the broken characters on both sides of the law with the crime itself being something of an afterthought. “Den of Thieves” tries real hard to break the characters in a way that justifies their actions but only adds to the silliness of the whole film. The most interesting part of the film is the planning and carrying out of the robbery of the Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. It is a massively guarded facility with seemingly impenetrable security and with safeguards in place to keep you from spending any money you might actually get away with. It is a plan that, naturally, requires careful preparation and split-second timing. It is also incredibly dumb and unmanageable in about 100 different ways. Still, it is the best part of the film.

The worst part is Gerard Butler. I felt sorry for him and his portrayal of Nick Flanagan as a hard-drinking, hard-living detective that is so buried in his work he rarely sees his wife and two kids. His acting in this is best described as frantic. He’s constantly angry, agitated and aggravated and all apparently at the same time. He has a couple of scenes where he acts like a human being with emotions and stuff but those are few and far between. Most of the time he’s either sucking on a cigarette and chugging down a beer or beating up a suspect to get him to talk. It’s the kind of performance that is supposed to make the audience feel the character is running on a razor’s edge and could crack at any moment. It actually makes us laugh at the idea anyone would put this lunatic in charge of a law enforcement team. Butler’s performance is so exaggerated and over the top you’ll be rooting for the bank robbers.

Pablo Schreiber is actually very good as Merrimen, the leader of the bank robbers. Perhaps his more controlled performance looks great when compared to Butler’s whirling dervish but I found Schreiber to be a fascinating bad guy and a character that had some real potential. I also enjoyed the performance of O’Shea Jackson as Donnie. He’s caught between two worlds and knows either side will kill him if he slips up. He’s over his head and looks like he’s hoping to just survive long enough to escape his situation. Jackson plays the underdog role for all its worth and you can’t help but hope his character somehow survives and makes a better life for himself.

The story takes a huge twist at the very end with an explanation about how everyone involved has been played for a fool. I appreciated the effort to turn a film that is something of a mess into a surprising mindbender. Sadly, even the twist is something that isn’t handled that well and still requires such a suspension of disbelief that everything has to play out even more perfectly than you initially thought. While it does offer something of a better ending it still doesn’t make up for all the shenanigans that have gone on before.

“Den of Thieves” is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality/nudity. There are some bloody shootings and beatings. There is a scene in a stripper bar and we briefly see some topless women along with bare backsides. Foul language is common throughout.

While it isn’t quite bad enough to be a guilty pleasure, there are a few things in “Den of Thieves” that are enjoyable. While implausible, the heist is pretty fun especially as it is being pulled off. The performances of Pablo Schreiber and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. are highlights. And if you want to see a clinic on what not to do during a leading acting role then watch Gerard Butler. Otherwise this film is utterly forgettable.

“Den of Thieves” gets two stars out of five.

This week the only new movie in wide release is Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

I will be on a trip this week so there will be no review.

Listen to The Fractured Frame wherever you get your podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.